Pitchers and catchers normally report to spring training in mid-February. But with MLB players locked out by the owners while leadership on both sides negotiate a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, players have had a little more personal time this winter.
For Tampa Bay Rays right-handed pitcher Drew Rasmussen, that meant a chance to come home and be honored by the place where it all started.
On Friday, Rasmussen, Ashlee Pedersen and Delaney Zalud became the second class of inductees into the Mt. Spokane athletic hall of fame at halftime of the Wildcats’ boys basketball game against Ferris.
Rasmussen, a 2014 graduate of Mt. Spokane, was Greater Spokane League MVP and all-state his senior year. He holds single-season records for innings (85), wins (11) and strikeouts (114) and is the program’s career record-holder in each of the three categories.
He led the Wildcats to a third-place finish at state in 2014.
“Obviously, this is a place that transformed my life and helped shape me into who I am today,” Rasmussen said of his high school alma mater. “It definitely helped lay the foundation for who I am and what I believe in and everything I want to accomplish in my life. So, to have the ability to come back here and be honored is truly a blessing.”
After a stellar career at Oregon State, where he threw the first perfect game in program history, Rasmussen was selected by Tampa Bay in the first round of the 2018 MLB draft but didn’t sign. He was selected the following summer by Milwaukee and made his MLB debut on Aug. 20, 2020, with the Brewers.
He was traded to the Rays in May 2021, helped them win the American League East title and made a start against Boston in the AL Championship Series.
Rasmussen said he found out about the honor while riding in the car when he received a phone call from Mt. Spokane baseball coach Alex Schuerman.
“I still keep in touch with (Schuerman) all the time and so I was in the car, and thought I was just getting a phone call from him. I was like, ‘Oh, he just might want to be wanting to touch base.’
“But it was an awesome moment. You know, there were a lot of my favorite high school teachers that were in the room and they’re on our hall of fame committee – people who had a big impact on me. To have them on the call and congratulate me and let me know, it was an honor.”
Schuerman was bursting with pride Friday night.
“He’s just the pinnacle of the baseball player that we’ve had at Mt. Spokane and for him to receive this kind of accolade is, it’s just a great moment of pride for me as a coach,” Schuerman said. “He deserves all of it.”
Rasmussen was delighted by the reception he received by the current students in the stands for the basketball game.
“It’s crazy to think that eight to 10 years ago – that it’s been eight to 10 years, first off – but eight to 10 years ago that I would have been sitting in those very seats. It’s just crazy to think how fast time goes.
“To be back here – there’s a lot of memories that have come back and I’ve gotten to see a lot of people that I truly love and cherish and so just being able to come back here and see everything has been awesome.”
Though Rassmussen is just 26, he’s been drafted three times, went through the experience of playing big league baseball during a pandemic and traded already in his short career.
“With every hiccup in the road, I think there’s lessons to be learned,” he said. “So, bouncing around a little bit I think definitely toughened me and made me and helped me to get hardened. The lessons that I’ve learned along the way have helped me to get to where I am today.”
He was flattered that the Rays wanted to trade for him almost two years after drafting him. He’s anxious to get started this season and prove himself again – whenever that may be.
“I had a really good year last year and so to come off the heels of that, there’s a lot of confidence and I’m excited,” he said. “I’m a big believer that if you take care of the team first, a lot of your individual goals kind of get met along the way.
“This is a team that’s two years removed from playing in the World Series – I’d love to get back there and help them finish the business. So, our goals, especially with how good of a team we have returning, is to win it all.”
Pedersen, a 2014 graduate of Mt. Spokane, was an 11-time letter winner in soccer, basketball and track. She was a two-time GSL sprinter of the year and first-team All-GSL for three seasons. She placed in the top eight at state 10 times, including a state title in the 4x200 relay her senior year.
Pedersen was a four-time letter winner in soccer and was named GSL defensive MVP and second-team all-state her senior year. She earned all-league honors in each of her three sports in the 2013-14 school year.
Zalud was a 2010 graduate and was a four-year letter winner in soccer and softball. She was first-team all-league in soccer her junior year and named GSL offensive MVP and all-state as a senior, leading the Wildcats to their first GSL title and the program’s first state berth.
Zalud became the first Wildcats pitcher to earn back-to-back first-team all-league recognition. She holds program career records for strikeouts (556) and innings (426⅓). As a senior, she struck out 12 in a one-hit shutout against Franklin Pierce to help the softball program earn its first state tournament win.
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